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The top five strategies that 5-star law firms implemented in 2023

by Heidi Fagalde on August 10, 2023

The Five Strategies of 5-Star Firms

Introduction

The legal industry in Canada has experienced significant changes in recent years, leading to an evolving landscape that requires law firms to adapt and innovate. This is key to ensuring law firms remain relevant, competitive, and successful. By embracing new technologies, practices, and approaches law firms can enhance their service, improve efficiency and profitability, and attract and retain both clients and legal talent.

So what does a firm like this look like?

A 5-star law firm refers to a firm that has achieved a high rating by its own lawyers and employees with regard to a number of factors that indicate quality of work output and excellence as an employer. In our 2023 Legal Survey, under 30% of participants rated their firm five stars when asked to judge their performance as a whole. While the term “5-star” is not an official designation, we assume that those who work for a firm are its best judge. While the reason for rating their firm five of five stars may vary from respondent to respondent, the results of our 2023 survey show the top strategies used by 5-star firms to be better than average are:

  1. Technology
  2. Salary and / or Benefits
  3. New Sources of Clients
  4. Training and Mentorship
  5. Work From Home or Hybrid Work

In this blog we will analyze each strategy mentioned above and how they contribute to a 5-star rating.

Technology

Leveraging technology in the most effective way is one of the key challenges law firms face, so how do 5 star firms implement technology in an efficient and cost-effective way?

5-star law firms demonstrate a willingness to embrace innovation and adapt to changes when it comes to technology. They value technology and implement management systems to ensure that the firm is always up-to-date with new technologies that come available, that the firm implements those that will be useful to its practice, and that its people are properly trained and not left to their own devices when it comes to the firm's tech stack.

Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity — not a threat. Steve Jobs

They stand out for their adeptness at embracing cutting edge tools and systems to enhance their legal practice. However, the implementation of technology would have minimal effects without the need to thoroughly analyze the operations of the firm. What kind of software is needed? What results do we want to see?

A well defined strategy, to ensure the goals align with the softwares ability, avoids unnecessary expenses and effective resource allocation. Consider the following as a start:

By keeping up with technology, these top firms effectively optimize their processes, empower their staff, and provide exceptional client service while maintaining a competitive edge in the ever evolving legal landscape.

Salary and / or Benefits

Competitive compensation packages and employee perks can be used to attract and retain top legal talent. 5-star firms recognize that, at the right time, offering above-market salaries not only attract skilled applicants, but also fosters a culture of excellence.

Almost 40% of participants in our 2023 Legal Survey who rated their firm as having 5 stars, stated that their firm increased their salary or benefits as a reason for their rating.

Providing robust benefit packages is an often less expensive way a firm can show their ability to prioritize employee well being. Wondering what some of these packages have? Health and wellness programs, flexible work arrangements, generous vacation policies to name a few, are among the most common. Offering these perks ensures a motivated and satisfied workforce. Firms can also look into offering unique opportunities for professional growth and development. This can include specialized training programs, client interaction training, pro bono initiatives, and leadership development programs.

By recognizing the value of investing in their legal professionals, these 5-star firms are able to further establish themselves as employers of choice in the legal industry.

New Sources of Clients

Another strategy used by 5 star firms, is actively engaging in diverse strategies to find new sources of clients. This ensures a steady flow of business and ability to expand their revenue. 5-star firms understand the importance of a proactive approach to business development and employ various techniques to achieve this goal.

  • Targeted Marketing and Branding:

    • In the highly competitive legal world, making an effort to attract and secure new clients is crucial. This approach gives law firms the opportunity to differentiate themselves from competitors. By focusing on their specific industry or legal niches where they excel, these firms can highlight their unique strengths and demonstrate specialized expertise. A strong and targeted brand also builds credibility and trust. Regularly communicating their expertise and track record establishes them as knowledgeable authorities in that field.
  • Thought Leadership:

    • To establish oneself as an industry leader, these firms engage in thought leadership initiatives. Regularly publishing high quality content such as articles, blogs or webinars. Doing so allows firms to showcase their expertise and influence industry discussions. Those seeking reliable and knowledgeable legal counsel are more likely to resonate with and choose these firms.
  • Collaboration:

    • Mother always said sharing is caring. 5-star firms know this well. Partnering with other professionals allows top firms to pool their expertise and offer comprehensive solutions to their clients' legal needs. These collaborations then create mutually beneficial referral networks, or cross referral opportunities, which benefits all parties involved.

By combining various strategies, 5-star law firms are able to position themselves as trusted advisors and continually expand their clientele.

Training and Mentorship

While 5-star firms will usually be known for their exceptional services and client-focus, to maintain this status they must also ensure a high-quality roster of lawyers and staff. Training and mentorship are critical components, playing a pivotal role in shaping a firm's success and reputation. These programs serve as the backbone for fostering a culture of excellence, professional growth, and client-centricity, and 5-star firms know this.

A 2023 Forbes article discussed the importance a strong mentorship program can have: 94% of employees said they would stay with a company longer if they felt that they could develop and grow within their company. In our 2023 Legal Survey, 70% of participants had some level of concern that employee recruitment and retention would affect their firm's success.

Those who receive regular training and mentoring often experience higher levels of job satisfaction, thus leading to high retention numbers. By investing in their staff, 5-star firms are able to spare the expense of losing and rehiring staff and re-training, and ultimately rise above their competition. They cultivate legal excellence by equipping staff with the knowledge, skills and best practices necessary through various programs and opportunities. Whether it is honing research and analytical abilities or mastering negotiation, comprehensive training ensures everyone is prepared and work is precise. Effective mentorship programs also groom future leaders within the firm. Seasoned partners can pass down their wisdom, experience and leadership skills to younger members, fostering a new generation of skilled legal professionals who embody the firm's values and vision. These programs also provide the ability to acquire new skills and competencies. Finally, by ensuring their teams can adapt to a dynamic legal landscape, these firms can keep up with the continuously evolving industry. Sharing internal knowledge, embracing legal technology, monitoring legal developments and encouraging industry engagement are a few ways law firms can ensure their members are well equipped.

Programs such as these are instrumental in cultivating legal excellence within a 5-star law firm, and both the mentor and mentee benefit, as does the company they work for.

Work From Home or Hybrid Work

One word: flexibility.

65.63% of participants who voted their firm as 5 stars stated they recommend others ”Permit / expand work from home or hybrid work.” 57.81% stated that when firms “Implement technology to facilitate WFH / hybrid work,” this increased their effectiveness and value to their firm.

Offering remote work options also expands the firm's talent pool, enabling access to a diverse range of legal professionals beyond their physical location. This not only shows their adaptability and ability to think ahead, but also acts as another way to position themself as a progressive and sought after employer. Additionally, during unprecedented events firms' remote capabilities ensure the continuity of business and little-to-no-interruption in client service.

Ultimately adopting a unique work schedule that aligns with the firm's commitment to excellence can additionally lead to cost saving for both parties. Commuting time and expenses are cut down. There is also less need for office space, reducing overhead costs for the firm. Adopting this strategic move allows firms to remain effective in response to evolving needs of both employees and clients.

These characteristics collectively contribute to the recognition of a law firm as a 5-star establishment.

Final Thoughts

As law firms look to the future, the landscape of the legal industry is likely to continue evolving, presenting even 5-star firms with new opportunities and challenges. Technological advancements will play a crucial role, as emerging tools such as artificial intelligence and increased automation merge with the legal realm. These firms may need to further embrace integration to remain competitive and meet demand. Their ability to adapt to the changing expectations and needs will be key in their efforts to remain at the pinnacle of the legal industry and maintain their status as leaders in the field.

Cover of our 2023 Legal Trends and Challenges Report

Eager to delve into the latest trends and challenges faced by the Canadian legal community in 2023? Download our free, in-depth 2023 Legal Trends and Challenges Report.

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